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Summer Palace (2006)
"Yihe yuan" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,885 users   Metascore: 79/100
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Country girl Yu Hong leaves her village, her family and her lover to study in Beijing. At university, she discovers an intense world of sexual freedom and forbidden pleasure. Enraptured, ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Xiaodong Guo ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Xueyun Bai ...
Lin Cui ...
Yihong Duan ...
Tang Caoshi (as Long Duan)
Ling Hu ...
Chi Le ...
Meihuizi Zeng ...
Xianmin Zhang ...


Country girl Yu Hong leaves her village, her family and her lover to study in Beijing. At university, she discovers an intense world of sexual freedom and forbidden pleasure. Enraptured, compulsive, she falls madly in love with fellow student Zhou Wei. Driven by obsessive passions they can neither understand nor control, their relationship becomes one of dangerous games - betrayals, recriminations, provocations - as all around them, their fellow students begin to demonstrate, demanding democracy and freedom. Protests collapse, and Yu and Zhou lose each other amidst the social chaos and panicked crowds. Zhou Wei is sent to a summer military camp, and on his release moves to Berlin, fleeing both his country and memories of Yu. She finds a job, a lover, but can not forget Zhou. In Germany, social unrest is mounting: calls for freedom, demonstrations for democracy. A familiar story for Zhou. Weary, still haunted by Yu, he returns to China as the Berlin Wall crashes down. He finds her at ... Written by Anon

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


See all certifications »






Release Date:

18 April 2007 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Summer Palace  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$2,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$10,649 (USA) (18 January 2008)


$62,707 (USA) (25 April 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(as Dolby SRD)


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Was the only Asian film selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in 2006. See more »


There were no nightclubs or bars in 1980's Beijing such as the ones portrayed in Summer Palace. Despite the presence of a few underground bars in Beijing at that time, it is highly improbably that any university students would patron such establishments. Moreover, those bars did not play American pop music, did not allow dancing, did not stock western liquor, and certainly did not admit foreigners. Any clubs or bars like the ones shown in Summer Palace did not begin appearing in Beijing until the late 1990s and did not gain popularity amongst middle-class college students until after the new millennium. See more »


Yu Hong: I want us to break up.
Zhou Wei: Why?
Yu Hong: Because I can't leave you.
See more »


Features The 400 Blows (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

A movie about love (and time?)
30 November 2008 | by (Mexico) – See all my reviews

This film is about several Chinese people, about how they grow up and how time changes them. It is focused on one couple, the very intense passion that they feel for each other and the paths that life shows them in relation of what they feel in each step of their lives...

This movie is centered in love. More exactly, it is centered in the romantic view of life, which is destined to collide with the fact of growing up, because the characters in the film just can't manage to keep their passionate feelings while they start living other things after leaving university. It is as if life and circumstances pushes them to leave behind their memories, the anchor that seems to keep the characters living and knowing that they are someone. I think it is interesting how this is managed as the film goes by, because I recognized this feeling in myself and among my friends: about how, by leaving school, you have the feeling to be adrift in the universe of life.

Also, the passion that the characters feel becomes sedated by the tedium of their lives after school. I think the director tries to communicate that feeling: after university, the characters start to get bored with their lives, compared with what they lived in school. It is sad to look how the woman character struggles to keep that feeling alive, but always feeling depressed because she can't grasp that passion that just goes away. They travel, they meet other people, they get jobs, but simply it's not the same. This is also related to the student's protests in China, all the feelings and expectations they generate, and the disillusion they found when they have to confront the real world.

Finally, I think what the film communicates, is that every emotion, love, feeling or whatsoever, is seized by time. This is something that the characters just don't get and the reason of why they suffer: they can't accept that they are different from the ones that were young and passionate. Even in long marriages, couples have to reinvent themselves to keep together each other, or simply they fall in the arms of custom. This last thing is what the characters refuse to do, always trying to keep their feelings alive. But that's also the reason of why they suffer, especially the woman character: they live attached to their memories and they leave part of their identity in the past. I think that a phrase that is showed in the french movie "Irreversible" could fit perfectly on this one: TIME DESTROYS EVERYTHING. But in this film, this phrase applies in a more subtle way, in something that involves people's identities.

I liked the movie. It was one of those which you can't get out of your head for the rest of the day. The acting is good and the music is great. If there is something to criticize, is that the film is a little bit too long for what it express, specially at the second part of the film. I found other criticism unfounded: sex is an important part of the film, since it express passion, and it's definitely NOT a soap opera, because it doesn't have a happy ending and it has a message that you have to discover by thinking and feeling the film.

I recommend this one.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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One of the best and most important films of this decade septimus-3
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